Authorities believe a missing 38-year-old woman’s skeletal remains were found Monday in Suffolk County on Long Island, New York, PEOPLE confirms.
They were wrapped in burlap and buried beneath the former residence of her then-boyfriend, a married policeman.
Southold detectives say it was the work of a local newspaper that prompted them to reopen the case of Louise Pietrewicz, who was raising an 11-year-old girl when she vanished without a trace in late 1966.
Investigators are now probing the circumstances surrounding the discovery of the remains and medical examiners will determine a cause of death. DNA testing is pending to confirm they are, in fact, Pietrewicz’s bones.
According to sources, detectives began digging up the soil basement of a home in Southold last week but found no evidence of human remains.
However, the Suffolk Times reports investigators spoke with “some people involved” and then dug deeper. After going down some seven feet, they unearthed a full female skeleton on Monday. The case is now being treated as a homicide.
Authorities tell PEOPLE the home was sold years ago and its current owner consented to the search. The occupants have no involvement in the case, according to police.
The home was sold during the late 1970s, according to the Times — several years before the 1982 death of William Boken, with whom Pietrewicz was romantically involved at the time she disappeared.
Boken’s wife at the time, who was interviewed as part of the paper’s investigative report on Pietrewicz going missing, is listed as the seller of the house.
“Many hours of research and scores of interviews conducted in recent months show that Louise’s disappearance was hidden away behind a wall of indifference, her plight reduced to small-town gossip and whispered rumors,” reads the newspaper’s special report, which was published in October. “It was as if people knew something horrible had happened — after all, she vanished without explanation — but agreed not to speak about it openly for fear of offending someone or rocking the boat.”
Boken, the Times notes, was a Southold police officer during his extramarital affair with Pietrewicz.
“Sometimes later in life, witnesses do come forward to give us information that maybe, at one point, they felt compelled not to release, felt threatened … or just out of their conscience come forward,” Suffolk County Police Chief Detective Gerard Gigante told reporters during a news conference Tuesday.
Gigante noted the victim’s daughter, Sandy Blampied, is alive “so it is nice to be able to bring closure to the family.”
However, he said, “No murder case or missing persons case is resolved until we find the body and the murderer.”
The Times reports that Boken’s now ex-wife, Judith Terry, told police a burlap-wrapped body had been buried in her family’s basement not long after Pietrewicz disappeared.
According to a 2013 supplemental police report obtained by the Times, a state investigator recalled Terry telling him in 1967 that her husband had threatened her: “If you keep it up, you will end up in the basement with the other bitch.” (Terry could not be reached for comment by PEOPLE.)
“I was in shock,” Blampied told the Times of learning her mother’s body had likely been found. “It’s hard to believe. It hit home after 51 years.”
Blampied added: “I said from the beginning — Judy Boken Terry was the key. I said, ‘She knows.’ And she did.”